During the pandemic, working from home went from being a rare “perk” to a widespread necessity. Even as social distance restrictions begin to ease, it seems unlikely that everyone will rush back into the office. Many employees learned they don’t need to be in the office to complete most, if not all, of their assigned tasks. Employers discovered they don’t have to maintain a large, expensive workspace for teams to be productive.
If you’re thinking of working from home for the long-term, however, it really makes sense to create a true home office. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Keep in mind that the goal is to create an environment that supports your work and is also healthy for your mind and body. As a full-time WFH employee, here’s my list of the must-haves for a home office.
An Exclusive Space
Ideally, you’ll want to set up your home office in a private space away from distractions. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room in your home, that’s great. If not, don’t worry too much. A home office doesn’t have to be huge. All you really need is a space big enough to fit a desk and some computer equipment. Try using an out-of-the-way corner in another room, such as a bedroom. The main thing is to have a spot where you can leave your equipment set up without disrupting your or your family’s routine.
A Quality Desk and Chair
This is one area where you don’t want to skimp. Home office furniture doesn’t have to be luxurious, but it should be ergonomically sound. For most people, having the work surface 27 inches from the floor is ideal. Of course, if you’re taller or shorter than average, you’ll want to choose pieces that fit you.
If you have a little extra money to spend, considering investing in an adjustable height desk. Being able to sit or stand comfortably not only offers health benefits, but it can also make certain tasks easier. Even if you opt for a standing desk, remember that you’ll likely need to sit at some point. We’re human, after all! Select a chair that allows you to have both feet flat on the floor (or footrest) comfortably. It should also have a well-padded seat and offer good support for your back.
A Monitor … or Two
Finally, no home office is complete without a good monitor. It doesn’t have to be cutting-edge technology, but do get a size that allows you to display text and icons at sizes large enough to avoid eye strain. And while a single monitor can be great, having a double-monitor setup offers more flexibility if you routinely have multiple applications open at the same time.
While good lighting is important even in a traditional office space, it’s vital for a home office. Since you’ll likely be using Zoom or similar platforms to interact with clients and colleagues, you’ll want to arrange the light so you can be seen clearly. Avoid too-strong frontal lighting that can make you look washed-out or heavy backlighting that can leave you in shadow. Bad lighting makes it more difficult for people to engage with you during virtual meetings. While you can log in without video, of course, it’s really not the same experience. You’ll also need adequate task lighting to be able to read printed materials and work with physical objects easily.
How much shelving and storage space is “adequate” depends on the nature of your work. You’ll want easy access to documents, notes, calendars, and other office supplies required for your daily tasks. Whether you prefer using digital or physical media also influences your needs.
Many desks come with some built-in shelves or drawers; make smart use of them. If you don’t have built-in storage, there are lots of wall- and corner shelving solutions that are easy to install. For more flexible — and less permanent — storage, consider using removable clips, rolling drawers/hanging files, and over-the-door caddies. Finally, don’t forget about secure storage if you work with sensitive information!
Reliable Internet Service
No matter how wonderful your home office setup is, how useful is it really without reliable internet service? If you plan to work from home on a regular basis, high-speed internet is a must. For many people, a minimum of 50 Mbps (megabits per second) will suffice. It really depends on the type of work you do, though. If you routinely use video or transfer large documents, your bandwidth needs may be greater.
The Little Things
The primary purpose of a home office is to provide a safe, comfortable, and reliable spot to get your work done, of course. That said if you’re looking around your new space and finding it a little utilitarian, feel free to add some touches that stimulate your creativity.
Consider using a fun mug or funky vase to hold pens, scissors, paper clips, or other small items. You can also add a natural element like a plant or flowers to give your home office a more relaxed feeling. In the end, that’s the great thing about a home office. You can really make it your space!